My wife has diagnosed C-PTSD which her doctors have classified as a disability. She also lives with another disability related to a spinal injury which makes it difficult for her to walk. We are staying at a resort hotel in which we discovered sound readily transfers through the floors. This is evident due to frequent stomping above our room last night, and today when the cleaning crew presumably started work.

She got up around 3:00AM this morning to work on packing and cleaning our room. Around that time I also called reception to send us towels. A few minutes later the phone in our room rang, and I answered because I assumed it was reception calling us. The caller was actually another guest who I assume was in the room below us. He sounded intoxicated and was berating me for making sounds "like an elephant." I politely stated that if I had done anything to disturb him, I apologize. He hung up the phone. I was shocked he was able to call our room directly and this scenario was extremely triggering for my wife's PTSD symptoms. This was an extremely disturbing incident which the hotel failed to provide the level of security and safety that could reasonably be expected at a five star hotel.

We had actually been moved to this current room due to an incident that occurred the previous day. Since my wife is a survivor of a violent sexual assault, and especially because the assailant is still at large awaiting a criminal and civil resolution, when we arrived she was very specific and clear with the concierge in requesting a room that would be secure and that the staff would use discretion in being sensitive to her situation. The concierge mentioned that our room would have a balcony. The concierge did not explain that the balcony is adjacent to an exterior breezeway and elevator lobby which is separated by an easily climbable partition wall about 42 inches tall. Anyone in the breezeway could easily access the door to the patio by climbing over the wall. There were undeniably alternative rooms available featuring isolated balconies that are inaccessible to guests outside the room. So we are puzzled as to why we were assigned to a room with two easily accessible entry points. Over the course of a few hours we noticed a guest in the breezeway who walked by several times while into our room looking through the sliding door on the patio, which was unnerving to put it mildly. This is the reason we requested to be assigned to a different room.

In summary, and without going into further detail, we are looking at the big picture of the hotel failing to accommodate a guest with disabilities, the nature of which was made explicit upon our arrival. From our perspective, they put a guest who struggles with PTSD in more than one situation which excessively exacerbated the symptoms of her condition, and furthermore allowed a guest to harass us over the symptoms of her physical disability (i.e. difficulty walking and allegedly making noise "like an elephant"). Additionally, as a result of these incidents, we have been unable to take full advantage of the amenities and services we have paid for due to her symptoms being exacerbated and preventing both of us from sleeping.

We have a meeting with a manager this afternoon. Depending on the results, we are considering escalating the matter to the corporate level. Just wanted to get some constructive feedback on this scenario. Do we have any standing to look at taking legal action? And what type of attorney would we contact who might be familiar with relevant circumstances? Thanks in advance for any feedback.

To clarify location--these events occurred in California, United States.

  • 2
    Every 5 star hotel I’ve ever stayed at has the ability for direct room-to-room calls. How to make them is usually written directly on the phone.
    – Dale M
    Jul 6 at 23:22
  • Hi Dale, I understand that many hotel phone systems allow direct room-to-room calls. I appreciate you pointing that out and offering your feedback. However, I don't think it's acceptable to call a stranger in the middle of the night and harass them. I would never do this to another hotel guest--if there is a complaint regarding noise the appropriate action is to call the reception desk and ask for their help.
    – N.TW
    Jul 6 at 23:34
  • 6
    To a hotel, all rooms are as secure as any other - they dont have to consider that someone would act as a cat burglar to gain access (in which case all balconies are accessible from above and below). They are not care facilities, they only have to make reasonable accommodations - they provided you a room with door locks and switched rooms when asked. Did you ask for them to disable the phone system? I dont see any issue here with the hotel tbh.
    – Moo
    Jul 7 at 7:11
  • @N.TW Yes, it's definitely rude what the other hotel guest did. But that's not the question. The question is: Is the hotel legally responsible for other guests being rude, and are they obliged to pay damages to you?
    – gnasher729
    Jul 10 at 12:05
  • Calling a stranger in the middle of the night isn't something the hotel can control and you can't expect them to make lists of which rooms can call other rooms.
    – Joe W
    Jul 13 at 17:32

You have "standing" to take legal action, given the particularized injury you've suffered. If you're interested in doing so, you would talk to a civil-rights or disability-rights lawyer. There are plenty of lawyers who specialize in this sort of work, so you should make sure you're talking to someone who is well-versed in these laws.

However, I suspect that you'll find that you are not on particularly strong footing as a legal matter. It is not clear that your wife is "disabled" as defined by the ADA, which asks how an impairment affects your life functions rather than whether your doctor believes you are impaired. I'm not sure what the status of this question is in California, but some courts have ruled that PTSD is not always a disability within the meaning of the statute. See, e.g., Tinsley v. Caterpillar Fin. Servs., Corp., 766 F. App'x 337, 342 (6th Cir. 2019) ("We must now examine whether Tinsley's PTSD sufficiently limited her ability to perform a class of jobs or a broad range of jobs. The evidence demonstrates that it did not.").

But even if she is disabled within the meaning of the statute, that doesn't necessarily mean the hotel has done anything wrong. The ADA does not require hotels to give disabled guests whatever rooms they want; it only requires them to make "reasonable accommodations" for their guests' disabilities. If I were representing the hotel, I'd feel pretty good arguing that creating a perfectly secluded environment and reprogramming the hotel phone system to prevent unforeseeable triggering events is not a reasonable accommodation. However, a good ADA lawyer could probably come up with some good arguments why the hotel should have done more.

But the final problem is that lawyers may not be particularly interested in the case because it sounds like a very low-damages situation.

That said, this analysis is only under the ADA, which is what I'm already familiar with. California quite likely has its own disability-accommodation laws, and I'd bet they're more favorable to the disabled than the ADA. You'd need to talk to a local disability-lawyer to get a full understanding of your rights.

  • FYI California’s accommodation laws would place your case under the Unruh Civil Rights Act, but it’s unclear whether you would have any more luck with that vs. the ADA. Jul 7 at 16:35

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.